Ambulance operators accept deal

Deana Stokes Sullivan
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Health/labour

Private ambulance operators in the province have accepted a tentative agreement reached on the weekend with the provincial government, including an increase of about 35 per cent in block funding and higher wages for paramedics.

Tom Marshall, minister of finance and president of Treasury Board, announced the tentative agreement Saturday.

Bob Patten, president and chairman of the Private Ambulance Operators' executive board, which was negotiating for 28 private ambulance operations with 108 ambulances, confirmed Sunday the deal received "a very high percentage of acceptance."

Bob Patten, president and chairman of the Private Ambulance Operators' executive board, is pleased the group accepted a deal with government ending the strike. - Transcontinental Media file photo

Private ambulance operators in the province have accepted a tentative agreement reached on the weekend with the provincial government, including an increase of about 35 per cent in block funding and higher wages for paramedics.

Tom Marshall, minister of finance and president of Treasury Board, announced the tentative agreement Saturday.

Bob Patten, president and chairman of the Private Ambulance Operators' executive board, which was negotiating for 28 private ambulance operations with 108 ambulances, confirmed Sunday the deal received "a very high percentage of acceptance."

He said the tentative agreement was reached at the same time the largest ambulance operators' association in the province was holding its annual meeting, which sped up the voting process.

Patten said while the overall block funding increase is around 35 per cent, the actual increase for each individual operator is about 20 to 25 per cent because their total annual budgets include mileage rates and user fees which will remain the same.

"Obviously, there's never a perfect agreement and I'm sure there's things the government would like to have in there and so would we. But we went back to the table with a view to compromise and to try to put together a decent agreement," Patten said.

One of the operators' priorities this time around, he said, was to try and close the gap between private ambulance paramedics and hospital-based paramedics and they're pleased this was accomplished.

Patten said the private paramedics will get a $4-an-hour increase over the life of the agreement, bringing their salaries to $18.50 an hour, compared to about $21 an hour for hospital-based paramedics.

The new four-year agreement, which will expire March 31, 2012, includes almost more than a year and a half of retroactive benefits. The actual pay raise for paramedics is $2 an hour for the first year, $1 an hour in the second year and 50 cents an hour in the third and fourth years of the agreement.

Patten said the operators are pleased to gain this for their paramedics because they really deserved to be paid higher.

The small gap now can account for added duties performed by many hospital-based paramedics. Patten said, in many areas of the province, hospital-based paramedics also do security work or work in outpatients besides their ambulance-related duties, whereas paramedics working with private operators are only required to do ambulance-related work.

Other negotiated changes in the new contract include language amendments and the addition of provincial medical oversight (PMO), which will give paramedics the right to practice anywhere in the province without having to reregister if they move from one ambulance service or region of the province to another.

Patten said previously there has been regional medical control, but it will soon be provincial in scope, with Eastern Health assuming responsibility for medical control for the entire province. The intent, he said, is to also have consistent Canadian standards across the country. "So as of Jan. 1, PMO takes effect and it should be the same as PMO in Nova Scotia or anywhere else," he said.

The change will also mean that rural paramedics who are a good distance from a hospital will be able to go online through a telephone, radio or cell phone to obtain a physician's approval to treat a patient on board their ambulance.

Patten said in the Corner Brook area, operators had their own medical control doctor, but this change will now make the process consistent coast to coast.

Marshall termed the agreement good news for the operators and the people of the province.

Health Minister Jerome Kennedy said Sunday he was also very pleased that a deal was reached. "Obviously, the last thing our population needs is any further stress in the middle of a pandemic," Kennedy said.

dss@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Treasury Board

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Corner Brook

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Recent comments

  • Randall
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    My question is... is the wage increase and its retroactive implementation written into the contract in such a way that it will be required to be passed along to the workers? It has happened before that the wage increases were never passed along even though the companies recieved funds from the government to do so. Unless it is stipulated by government in the contract I am afraid the workers will be relying on the good will of their employers to pass these monies along. I guess we'll see what happens but if I were a paramedic with one of these companies I would'nt get my hopes up.

  • EMR
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    I see no mention of a pay increase for EMRs. Are we to be left out of this?

  • albert
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Congratulations to the Paramedics of NL. I hope the wage increases mentioned here, do get passed along to you, as you deserve it. I still do not understand why we have some 48 middle men ( Privates and community operators) but small steps are better then no steeps, I guess.

  • Brain
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    That's great for the paramedics but what about the emr's. Have they been forgotten in this deal? We are doing the same job in some cases, and for less pay.

  • alex
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    35%!!! I guess it pays to be in the private sector rather then the public sector. NAPE, CUPE, NLMA, NLNA,etc... should have held out for more.

  • Randall
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    My question is... is the wage increase and its retroactive implementation written into the contract in such a way that it will be required to be passed along to the workers? It has happened before that the wage increases were never passed along even though the companies recieved funds from the government to do so. Unless it is stipulated by government in the contract I am afraid the workers will be relying on the good will of their employers to pass these monies along. I guess we'll see what happens but if I were a paramedic with one of these companies I would'nt get my hopes up.

  • EMR
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    I see no mention of a pay increase for EMRs. Are we to be left out of this?

  • albert
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    Congratulations to the Paramedics of NL. I hope the wage increases mentioned here, do get passed along to you, as you deserve it. I still do not understand why we have some 48 middle men ( Privates and community operators) but small steps are better then no steeps, I guess.

  • Brain
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    That's great for the paramedics but what about the emr's. Have they been forgotten in this deal? We are doing the same job in some cases, and for less pay.

  • alex
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    35%!!! I guess it pays to be in the private sector rather then the public sector. NAPE, CUPE, NLMA, NLNA,etc... should have held out for more.